How to cancel accounts – utility, insurance, other – in the name of a deceased person.

One of the oddest tasks I had to address was cancelling or modifying utilities held in my Uncle’s name so the lights, cable and phone could stay on while my cousins still lived in the house.

Charter Cable, in South Carolina, in addition to wanting an original death certificate, it required the Probate Court Order showing I had been appointed as the Personal Representative (aka Executor) and required that I present it to them in person with my ID.  Such meant that changing anything would have to wait until I was in town again. Ridiculous since the point of closing accounts is to stop spending money.  Once I had provided Charter with the Court Order, in order to change the account name to one of my cousins and handle the account for her I had to provide them with a Power of Attorney from her to me, once received then they would finally talk to me. Frustrating since I was the one writing all the checks and paying all the bills.

Monitronics – an alarm service – required me to send them an original death certificate and wouldn’t talk to me until they received it.

Despite repeatedly informing the different utility companies to start mailing the bills to me in Illinois, they often wouldn’t process the request, usually claiming they couldn’t until they received the required documents – like the Death Certificate, or the Court Order appointing me as Personal Representative or the Power of Attorney. This lead to them continuing to mail bills to the house, where no one was at to collect and caused late fees to accrue.

Also frustrating was being told during an initial call that there was a refund due on the account for cancelling it, calling months later to find out where the refund was and learning that such information was inaccurate. A lot of time spent on the telephone — Wasted!

Also strange is how homeowner and car insurance policies are handled and vary from state to state when the account holder dies.

In South Carolina, after the account holder dies, the policy for the house and/or the car(s) will go into non-renewal status and whenever the term ends for that year insurance STOPS! meaning no insurance. I had to shop for an insurance policy for the house on the secondary market (much more expensive) to maintain protection until I could find someone to buy the house and was granted permission by the Probate Court to sell the house — which took filing a separate Petition to get such permission.  This is one of the key reasons why planning ahead and placing the house in Trust with successor trustees named or conveying title to heirs to be co-owners of the house while one is still alive would be very helpful and avoid lots of hassles and expense later.

An important point to consider, even if the house of the deceased is empty and you are trying to sell it you MUST have the house properly locked and secure, keep the electricity on and maintain some form of insurance.  The last thing you would want to face is a lawsuit against the Estate of the deceased person by someone who fell or had an accident in the house or about the property due to your failure to have the house properly lit and adequately insured while you are trying to sell it for proceeds.


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